Is Google manipulating its algorithm to prioritize left-leaning news outlets in their coverage of President Trump? It sure looks that way based on recent search results for news on the president.
Conservatives and Trump supporters have for the last several years questioned whether Google was deprioritizing conservative news sites, hiding them from users who utilize their search engine. Google has maintained that all outlets are treated fairly, but nevertheless, conservative sites have reported reduced search traffic and, in the case of Google-owned YouTube, content creators have been banned and demonetized. Google’s high-profile firing of conservative James Damore, purportedly over his conservative political views, only reinforces the idea that Google is picking winners and losers.
I expected to see some skewing of the results based on my extensive experience with Google, but I was not prepared for the blatant prioritization of left-leaning and anti-Trump media outlets. Looking at the first page of search results, I discovered that CNN was the big winner, scoring two of the first ten results. Other left-leaning sites that appeared on the first page were CBS, The Atlantic, CNBC, The New Yorker, Politico, Reuters, and USA Today (the last two outlets on this list could arguably be considered more centrist than the others).
Not a single right-leaning site appeared on the first page of search results.
But it got much, much worse when I analyzed the first 100 items that Google returned in a search for news on “Trump.”
CNN, by a wide margin, appeared most frequently, with nearly twice as many results returned as the second-place finisher, The Washington Post. Other left-leaning outlets also fared well, including NBC, CNBC, The Atlantic, and Politico. The only right-leaning sites to appear in the top 100 were The Wall Street Journal and Fox News with 3 and 2 results respectively.
PJ Media did not appear in the first 100 results, nor did National Review, The Weekly Standard, Breitbart, The Blaze, The Daily Wire, Hot Air, Townhall, Red State, or any other conservative-leaning sites except the two listed above.
Here are the sites that appeared most frequently in the top 100 results.
Related: Glenn in the Wall Street Journal: When Digital Platforms Become Censors: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other tech giants say that they’re open forums. What happens when they start to shut down voices they consider beyond the pale?
Call 2018 the “Year of Deplatforming.” The internet was once celebrated for allowing fresh new voices to escape the control of gatekeepers. But this year, the internet giants decided to slam the gates on a number of people and ideas they don’t like. If you rely on someone else’s platform to express unpopular ideas, especially ideas on the right, you’re now at risk. This raises troubling questions, not only for free speech but for the future of American politics and media.
The most famous victim of deplatforming is, not coincidentally, the least popular: Alex Jones, the radio host known for promoting outrageous conspiracy theories about everything from vaccinations to the Sandy Hook massacre. In a concerted action earlier this month aimed at loosely defined “hate speech,” Facebook , Apple , Spotify and YouTube removed from their services most of the material by Mr. Jones and his InfoWars network.Twitter recently followed suit with a seven-day suspension.
Their evasiveness isn’t hard to explain. After all, Mr. Jones isn’t doing anything different from what he has been doing for years. The real reason for his removal is that technology companies don’t like his views and have come under increasing pressure to deny him the use of their platforms.
Nor is it just Alex Jones who’s been subjected to digital unpersoning lately. The Austin-based “crypto-anarchist” Cody Wilson creates and distributes designs for guns that can be produced using 3-D printers. Shopify recently shut down the online storefront of Mr. Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed.